Giving Awards Profits Everyone


Do you remember the last time your efforts were recognized and appreciated? The elated feeling is hard wired into human beings. As pack animals, we naturally want to feel that we belong and that our hard work is valued by the rest of the pack. We might belong a pack that’s doing more work in cubicles than hunting, but the satisfaction of a job well done, with praise by peers for contributions to the team, elevates us through and through. The motivation to perform well can and does go beyond raises and profits, there’s a big role played by the appreciation of efforts.

Interestingly, this appreciation can lead to higher productivity and, thus, increased profits and raises. Sears, Roebuck & Co. found that every 5% increase in employee attitude scores brought a 1-3% increase in customer satisfaction and a 0.5% increase in revenue. When Walt Disney World Resort implemented program with supervisors recognizing their employee’s day-to-day efforts, staff satisfaction increased by 15%. When people are acknowledged for their hard work, everyone feels and better.

It’s easy and inexpensive to recognize coworkers, employees, even one’s boss. The impact is much bigger. A sincere compliment that’s specific and timely can go long way. It helps to simply attempt to be aware how often one clearly expresses appreciation to others.

Giving awards shows much more effort and adds much more prestige and significance to the recognition. Regular awards can even motivate certain team behaviors that need attention. Some awards, like gift certificates or cash, can work, but some can backfire, too. With too much focus on the incentive of the recognition and not enough on the recognition, itself, it can sometimes distract from the whole point and even result in unintended side-effects.

The study, Dirty Laundry of Employee Award Programs: Evidence from the Field, found that the focus on higher-priced incentives backfired, with morale and behavior. One of the authors, Ian Larken explains, “When I talk to companies about award programs, I find myself telling them, ‘Don’t put in that $500 or the trip to the Bahamas.’ It sounds like a nice thing to put in, but it also changes the psychological mindset people have.”

Instead, Larkin explains that it’s better just to give people a nice plaque, send an email to staff, or call a meeting to recognize certain workers, in front of the whole team.